Tag Archives: Andrew Lloyd Webber

Aspects of Love

Aspects of Love
★★★★

Southwark Playhouse

Aspects of Love

Aspects of Love

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 10th January 2019

★★★★

“The performances marvellously capture all the aspects of love that the libretto tries to convey”

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Aspects of Love” was met with a mixed reception when first written and produced in the eighties, and it is indeed one of his more curious affairs. Its own meandering inception and evolution seems to match the rather convoluted plot, based on the autobiography of David Garnett, Virginia Woolf’s nephew. Originally mooted as a film for which Webber and Tim Rice were to contribute some songs, it morphed into an unrealised collaborative cabaret with Trevor Nunn at the helm, before lyricists Don Black and Charles Hart came on board to help steer the vessel in some sort of definite direction. Sandwiched between “Phantom of the Opera” and “Sunset Boulevard” it probably suffered from a lack of focus and some have said it lost its way.

Katie Lipson has untangled the rigging in this revival, first produced last summer at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, and put it well and truly back on track; also showing us that there is more to this musical than the hit song, “Love Changes Everything”. For there are some truly striking melodies which, by stripping the accompaniment back to just two pianos and percussion, are now allowed to shine through the otherwise lumbering sung-through dialogue.

The story begins with the character of Alex (Felix Mosse) who is looking back over his life. It then flashes back to 1947 when he fell in love with Rose Vibert (Kelly Price), the star of a touring acting company. The young Alex convinces the older actress to spend two weeks with him at his Uncle George’s unoccupied estate. When Uncle George (Jerome Pradon) returns unexpectantly and finds himself attracted to Rose, the complications begin. Complications not just for the characters within the story though; but for the producers too. The trick now is how to keep the audience engaged as the characters canoodle their way through the doodling plot, occasionally thrown off kilter by sudden shifts in time.

But Lipson has the Midas Touch when it comes to musical theatre and has once again assembled an impressively strong cast. The performances marvellously capture all the aspects of love that the libretto tries to convey. Jonathan O’Boyle’s confident direction allows the detail to be seen through the myriad scene and time changes. And if you don’t really care for the plot you certainly care about the characters.

Despite the heavy-handed feel of the piano accompaniment (which some tweaking on the sound desk could quickly cure) the vocal performances are beautiful and searingly moving. Mosse’s intimate yet unsentimental rendition of ‘Love Changes Everything’ is a delightful detour from the original, but the highlights of the show include Price’s heart rending ‘Anything But Lonely’ and Pradon’s understated opening to the Ivor Novello tinged ‘The First Man You Remember’.

But beyond this central love triangle is where the interest really lies. Madalena Alberto, as the free-loving Giulietta is compellingly watchable; Eleanor Walsh, as the fifteen-year-old Jenny, gives an assuredly mature performance that eschews the uncomfortable Lolita-style caricature that is often associated with the role. And Minal Patel, as actor manager Marcel, softly steals the smaller stage time he is allowed with his velvet voice.

It is a tricky show that explores perhaps too many variations on the theme of love. But it seems that this intelligent cast has picked one aspect, made it their own, and let it shine. Like the diamond in the mire, this clear-cut production lets the emotion glisten.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


Aspects of Love

Southwark Playhouse until 9th February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Country Wife | ★★★ | April 2018
Confidence | ★★ | May 2018
The Rink | ★★★★ | May 2018
Why is the Sky Blue? | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Wasted | ★★★ | September 2018
The Sweet Science of Bruising | ★★★★ | October 2018
The Trench | ★★★ | October 2018
Seussical The Musical | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Funeral Director | ★★★★★ | November 2018
The Night Before Christmas | ★★★ | November 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Review of The Woman in White – 4 Stars

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The Woman in White

Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed – 4th December 2017

★★★★

“the cast float around each other with well choreographed ease”

 

I spent my teenage years with my nose in a classic book, or two, or three, (or four), but I have to admit I never really enjoyed the writing of Wilkie Collins. In latter years I’ve enjoyed adaptations for stage and screen far more than the novels. They brought to life some of his complex characters and amazing plots. Maybe it was the lawyer in him that made his attention to detail so precise, and my teenage attention span that struggled with his prose.

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Written in the mid nineteenth century, the book felt like a detective novel, yet that was a genre that barely existed at the time. Having not seen the original production, I was a little wary of how a classic mystery, complete with Victorian ghosts, could be adapted as a musical, even with a score from the capable hands of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Explaining this plot involves untangling deliberate deception, sinister marriages, and questionable morals. It encompasses several journeys, an asylum, a marriage, and an impossible love affair, not to mention mistaken identities, two huge ‘secrets’ and a potential murder/kidnap to juggle! The cast have the unenviable task of ensuring the audience follows the twists and turns of five intertwined, unfurling lives, through David Zippel’s lyrics.

Charing Cross theatre is not a large venue, but Morgan Large’s adaptable set effortlessly glides to separate centre stage to direct your attention left or right, as well as framing action at the back to effectively shield dramatic entrances. The effect is very atmospheric and spacious, I frequently felt I was part of the journey around the stage throughout the story.

The score has been revised for this new production and is performed to perfection by the live orchestra conducted by Simon Holt. The acoustics of this old Music Hall aid the wonderful voices of the cast who float around each other with well choreographed ease. As an ensemble their voices harmonise beautifully, and the lyrics afford some humour to the tale.

The story has many protagonists pivotal to the plot, each presence on stage needs to command attention – and does. There is more than one leading lady and more than one villain at work. And the hero of the piece may just be a heroine. Carolyn Maitland, Anna O’Byrne and Sophie Reeves (Mariam, Laura and Anne) have equally stunning voices. Each sings with the other at some point throughout the show to great effect. Different songs leave you feeling each has out-sung the other until the next number and the dynamic shifts.

Ashley Stillburn, Chris Peluso and Greg Castiglioni work wonderfully as Walter, Glyde and Count Fosco – the latter turning in an amazing comic cameo in the middle of the second act to much applause.

The show has lightened the tone from the original novel without losing the mystery – and with a twist at the end that remains a surprise. The Woman in White with its accomplished cast and tremendous score should be one of everyone’s Christmas shows to see.

 

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hinson

Photography by Darren Bell

 

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The Woman in White

is at the Charing Cross Theatre until 10th February

 

 

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